The type of management dog you use when training your dog can make a huge difference in how effective your training sessions are.The right treat helps dogs focus on the training around distractions. Use whatever training your dog enjoys! However, it is important to understand what your dog likes and how to use a variety of treats to make the training fun.
Understand What Treats Your Dog Likes
You may hear your dog trainer talking about using a “high value” versus handling a “low value” training - this refers to the value your dog puts in each reward, not the amount you actually pay at the store.
What Are "High Value" Treats?
High value treats is often something your dog does not get often without training sessions. Think of small pieces of fish, liver, tripe, or peanut butter. Think of your high-value treats as giving your dog an "A+++" for behavior and training.
When Should You Use High-value treats?
- When you first introduce a brand new behavior
- In more disruptive situations, such as a dog training class
- If you reward your dog with a quick or high quality response to the cue
- During important socialization and proactive exposure training for puppies
- If you are working on counter conditioning as part of a program to reverse leash recurrence behavior, anger, anxiety, or fear.
What Are "Medium value" treats?
These foods are usually made with ingredients that your dog does not get from their regular diet. It is also provided more often during training sessions and in daily routines than high-cost meals.
When Should You Use Medium value treats?
- When maintaining an already learned behavior
- In mildly distracting environments
- Throughout the day for good behavior
- As part of regular enrichment activities
What Are "Low value" treats?
Low value treats are good to work on in your training because they tend to have lower calories than high and medium value treats. Low-value treats are usually dry and crunchy. Many trainers use regular dog food for training as it makes it easier to eliminate management in training.
When Should You Use Low-Value treats?
- If your dog performs a requested and previously generalized cue, but it's a "C" grade performance (this also might indicate that your dog needs to be further from a distraction or might need to go back a few steps in training)
- Throughout the day to encourage continued good behavior
- In low to no distraction training environments
- As part of regular enrichment activities
- When you're working on fading out the use of treats for a specific behavior
How to choose a training treatment
To help you choose a treat for your dog that will be most enjoyable and responsive to the best, set a taste test.
First, choose a few different value treat options that you can try, based on:
Type of protein: Have a variety of fish, chicken, pork, or lamb. Include non-vegetarian foods, such as peanut butter.
Texture: Choose different treatment options based on their type of texture - dry, slightly wet, brushing, frozen, or wet.
Easy Delivery: When choosing taste testing options, be sure to choose pea-sized or small. If the treats are larger than the ones in the bag, see if you can break them into smaller pieces.
Next, give your dog a choice between different treats. Use small cups to cover different treats on the floor. Let your dog take a sniff and give the one they show most interest in. Switch to different treats, swap to what you have already tried with different alternatives, to get an idea of what your dog's treats as high value, medium value, and low value.
When you start training your dog, it is about earning the reward your dog is willing to work for.
Why You Should Use Dog Treats During Training
Food Treats Are a Powerful Reinforcer
Many dog owners like to believe that their dog will agree to work for them because it makes them happy, and while most dogs get owner approval and praise is rewarding, it is not as encouraging as getting a piece of fish/chicken. You do not come from work to make your boss feel good (though it is an added bonus). What motivates you to pay more is to pay off your debts, buy groceries, save for a vacation, or even "treat yourself."
Food is used as a reinforcer when training your dog. A reinforcer is something that causes the frequency of an action (or inaction) to increase. For example, every time you reinforce a sit position with a reward, you are increasing the likelihood that your dog will sit more often. For the vast majority of dogs, the reward of choice is food.
Food drive (the willingness to work for food) is high for most dogs because food is considered a guarantee. A primary reinforcer is something that your dog doesn’t need to learn how to like — food is something they need to survive! They are genetically programmed to figure out what behaviors get them food.
Food Treats Are Easy-to-Use
Treats are easy to give your dog as soon as he does something. This means you can have a high number of repetitions in a short period of time. This is important when introducing a command for the first time, or when practicing in a group training session. For example, if you’re rewarding your pup with a game of tug every time they come when called, it will take longer to perform ten repetitions than if you rewarded them with a small treat every time they were successful.
Training Treats are also easily used to lure when teaching a new behavior. The attraction is that you put something in your hand, close your fingers over it, and then use that hand in front of the dog's nose to lure him to follow. If you control the dog's head (including his nose - the smell is much better!), You can control his body, so the temptation gives you a force-free way to move the dog somewhere.
The key when using a lure in training your dog is switching to a so-called prompt as soon as possible. A prompt is the same thing as a lure except there is no food hidden in the hand. Many dogs tend to follow the temptation to get the treat later thus they easily follow hand movements.